Altamullan Road, a band led by Johanna Kurkela and Johanna Iivanainen, accompanied by Timo Kurkela and Mikko Iivanainen, conducted their first-ever tour this winter. The tour idea existed before Covid, but it could only happen now. We attended a show in a small town, Hyvinkää, about 40 minutes drive from Helsinki.
Altamullan Road calls itself “as the sound of love and letting go, the voice of larks, poets, and friendship” and “emotional cinematic music”. Johanna Kurkela is a singer-songwriter with a solo career that began in 2005. She is also part of the trio Auri with keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen (her husband), guitarist, keyboardist, and pipe player Troy Donockley, both members of Nightwish. Another project she is known for is “Eye of Melian”, led by Martijn Westerholt from Delain. Johanna Iivanainen is a Finnish singer with a jazz background (“I just love all music!” as she titled her Instagram).
The ‘Hyvinkääsali’ was about 75% full and not sold out (but we know that it was pretty much packed in Helsinki the next day). What was apparent from the start was how many different people of all ages were coming. The band is small, and honestly, I was not expecting much of a stage show, as small bands usually run shows with minimal overhead. To my surprise, the ambiance was very immersive: the group invested in the spectacular light design (made by Tommi Stolt of Space Zoo Oy, who has worked for Nightwish and many TV shows), and the result was some of the best light I have ever seen on gigs. It definitely helped to multiply the effect of the beautiful ballads of Altamullan Road and helped to leave a strong impression. The whole space above the stage was covered by many kinds of light beams, making the “stage” really huge.
Program-wise, we heard the entire self-titled debut record (circa 2020) as well as many ballad covers, some of them well-known classics (“Neverending Story”, “Hey Brother”, “Fields of Gold”). Anyone who is familiar with their lyrical and beautiful material would know that the live performance was spellbinding. Whimsical lights, beautiful solos, and the sound of acoustic instruments make for a very immersive experience. The only thing I remark is that the rhythm of most songs was quite similar, which dials down the impression a little towards the end of the gig as the brain gets used to sound and tempo. The program lasted two hours with an intermission.
The aftertaste of the gig was undoubtedly very positive and left me thinking of returning for one in the future. Altamullan Road is what makes Finnish music popular abroad – fantasy motives and beautiful harmonies.